Break Time

Jewish Light Editorial

The relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is becoming the diplomatic equivalent of the on-again-off-again, tough love union of the late Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. In what might become the seventh official “break-up” of the unity government between the P.A. and Hamas, P.A. President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has issued a blistering attack on Hamas, the terrorist organization that provoked the recent war with Israel in Gaza through its relentless rocket attacks on civilian targets in the Jewish State.

At a meeting last Sunday of foreign ministers during a conference of the 22-member League of Arab States in Cairo, Abbas outlined the history of his Fatah faction’s fight with Hamas (an organization listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization which not only refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, but officially calls for the systematic murder of Jews everywhere). The night before, according to a New York Times story by Jodi Rudoren, Abbas accused Hamas of running a “shadow government” in Gaza and of illegally executing scores of Palestinians.

“If Hamas won’t accept a Palestinian state with one government, one law and one gun,” Abbas said to journalists and scholars, according to the Times, “then there won’t be any partnership between us.” Previously, Abbas had issued statements denouncing Hamas for starting the war with Israel, and stating that Hamas “can’t be trusted.” 

Has Abbas finally awakened to smell the strong coffee of Middle East political realism?  One cannot be absolutely certain, since Abbas has shown himself to be opportunistic and mercurial — he entered into and later broke at least six previous national unity pacts with Hamas. Perhaps Abbas was jolted by the stark photographs of Hamas executing 18 of their fellow Palestinians in broad daylight on a public street in Gaza City. 


Another possible motive for Abbas to pull away is the potential for Hamas to be removed from power altogether in the Gaza Strip, which the terrorist group has controlled since forcibly ousting the P.A. in 2007.  Israel and the United States would prefer the P.A. to be put officially in charge of the Gaza Strip in order to make sure that Hamas does not take advantage of an extended truce. The concern is that an easing of shipments into Gaza might allow Hamas to rebuild its terrorist network of tunnels into Israel and to re-supply its arsenal of rockets from Iran and Syria.

The current unity government was formed when Abbas signed a deal with Hamas in April to end its seven-year split and place the West Bank and Gaza under one government. Abbas swore in a new slate of ministers on June 2, but they have yet to take control in Gaza. The Hamas ministers ostensibly stepped aside for the new group, but “still largely run day-to-day operations,” according to the New York Times

Hamas is believed to have agreed to the unity pact out of desperation, since it had become increasingly isolated and unpopular last spring. 

When the new Egyptian President Abdel Al-Sisi took power from the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Mohammed Morsi, he immediately closed the tunnels from Egypt into Gaza through which Iran smuggled rockets to Hamas to use against Israel. Sisi opposes Hamas, which is the Gaza branch of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood.

Abbas’ statement that there must be “a Palestinian state with one government, one law and one gun” is most welcome. David Ben-Gurion, founding Prime Minister of the State of Israel, made a similar declaration when he forced the merger of the moderate Haganah and the more militant Irgun and Stern militias once the state was formed. 

The Palestinian leadership from the very founding of the PLO and P.A. have allowed each faction to have its own “government, law and gun,” which has allowed murderous group like Hamas to continue their terrorist actions and to provoke war after war.  

If Abbas is serious this time about a clean and permanent break with Hamas,  that would be a most welcome development for the prospects of a two-state solution to this decades-old conflict.